For my 39th birthday last month, I decided to give myself the gift of self acceptance and a greater sense of appreciation for my body and its capabilities. It only took almost 4 decades, geez!
I’ve spent half my life envying other women’s bodies rather than feeling satisfied with my own, trying to make changes to my body so that it would look like those I envied, especially after having two kids. Here are some things I wish I would have known so that I could have arrived at the conclusion to 1. love my body sooner, and 2. display more patience and kindness towards myself along the way.
You are Be.You.Tiful!
Those stretch marks, that loose skin, belly pooch, or in my case, umbilical hernia and varicose veins, are all birthmarks resulting from nurturing a growing life inside of you. Rather than feeling ashamed of them, try regarding them as medals for your outstanding achievement of finishing the longest, hardest race of your life. Just like an athlete, you’ve trained your body for nine months and have performed this amazing physical feat that has left some lasting changes. Bravo! You earned each and every birthmark!
When my daughter asks about the strange looking purple bump on my calf, I tell her that it was given to me by her as a mark of love as she grew inside my belly. Every once in awhile, she’ll touch it, smile, and say, “I gave you this love mark, Mommy.” When she says that, I start to hate my varicose vein a little less and instead see it the way she does; a symbol that I was able to conceive and deliver this wonderful child.
Comparison is the thief of joy.
Don’t compare yourself to other runners. Stop letting what you see on social media or the magazine wrack rob you of your joy for running. Don’t allow your friend’s race day PR or your husband’s 10 mile trail run make you feel inadequate (I’m speaking from experience here). Stop stressing yourself out trying to uphold this idea of getting back to your pre-kids condition too soon. According to Aaron Baggish, M.D., the co-medical director for the Boston Marathon, “Most women should expect at least six months to get back to their pre-pregnancy fitness levels, if not a year. Some do it faster, but know that that’s not normal.”
Another runner’s progress has nothing to do with your progress. Give yourself time and listen to the cues your body sends you. You might get back to running two months after baby or it might take you two years, but no matter what, the run will always be there. Your body is the only tool you need to return to the sport you love, so keep it fine tuned.
Banish mom guilt.
In the long run, you will be a better mom for taking some time away for a long run. As mothers, we intuitively make sacrifices for our children. Don’t forget though how important it is to make time for the things that make you feel like you. Realize that you do a lot for your child every single day. Why do we feel guilty taking time for ourselves to recharge?
Schedule regular you time each week and keep it sacred. By doing so, you’ll be teaching your children the importance of self respect and how important it is to value health and wellness. At the end of the day, I try to recall three things I did that positively impacted my children. When I make a mistake, I acknowledge it, apologize, and move on with the understanding that I’m doing the best I can, and that motherhood is trial and error; there is always room for progress. Now, go hug your kids, tune out your mom guilt, and enjoy your run.
This too shall pass.
Most runs are gonna suck for a while, so expect it to feel different. Pregnancy and childbirth take an immense toll on your body and the impact can last years. Your body just went through some crazy stuff. You are functioning on fragmented sleep and fluctuating hormones have taken over. Consult your doctor or medical professional on what kind of return is best for you and be gentle with yourself as you give it time.
After having my first child, I thought I’d be able to pick up right where I left off. Ha! Was I ever foolish! I set unrealistic expectations that resulted in a hip injury due to over training. My triumphant return to running wasn’t so triumphant and it took a long time to get my body healed for a true comeback to the sport I love.
I am enough.
Give yourself a big pat on the back for all that you balance each day. You get out there and run those mommy miles, most likely feeling under slept and over caffeinated. You model for your children the value of physical activity. By making time for yourself you display self respect. You really are one incredible mother runner that is dedicated to doing what you love, and you are a great mom. Banish negative self talk and fill your thoughts with positivity and encouragement. When your daughter grows up and expresses a desire to get back into running after having children, what would you tell her? Now tell yourself that very same thing. You are more than enough.
Becoming a mother doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your running ambitions. With some patience and adjustments, you will get back what you once had plus some added wisdom and a greater sense of appreciation along the way. Stay the course and keep a happy, balanced pace. I am continually inspired by each and every mom I see out there running. So to all the jog stroller pushers, the moms running with their kids besides them, the dawn chasers, and the night crawlers, I see you and am continually inspired by your valiant efforts because believe me, I know how much effort it takes.
Jenny is a marathon mom in every sense of the word. Not only does she run marathons, but she is constantly running around with her two kids, helping to teach them the value of an active lifestyle.